Howl’s Moving Castle is approximately tied with Spirited Away for my favorite Studio Ghibli Movie. (Princess Mononoke is probably next.)
When a recent post on Gizmodo discussed both the film and novel, I realized I probably should just go ahead and read the book, since I seem to be very much into charming and comforting reads at the moment.
I’m most of the way through, and enjoying it, but am on team The Movie Was Better in this instance.
- The art and animation are super-charming and creative and sharp-looking. I like that the movie brings Ingary from “generic fantasy countryside” to a steampunk-while-still-fantastical setting, with flappy-winged airships and a very clanky castle.
- The music in the movie of course fits it very nicely.
- The WOTW’s minions in the movie are so much cooler than a scarecrow. And Turniphead is so much better as the cursed Prince Justin than as an evil minion!
- Howl in the movie: a good-hearted but extremely vain young wizard, struggling with the depression caused by having to fight in a war but trying to put on a brave face. Howl in the book: lazy and a womanizer.
- The stair scene is so much better in the movie, with Sophie and the WOTW both struggling but Sophie managing it better. Not to mention, the hilarity of Sophie thinking Heen is Howl in disguise, when Howl’s disguised as the king, but not actually fooling Suliman at all.
- Heen is better than some weird cursed dog-man. (Who… might be the missing prince? I haven’t finished the book yet but that’s my suspicion. Justin = Gaston isn’t a huge leap.)
- Wizard Suliman as a competent, shrewd woman rather than a dead guy.
- In the book, the WOTW is the Big Bad. In the movie… she’s certainly mean at first, and puts her own desires above others’ autonomy and well-being. But it’s war that is the real evil.
On the side of the book:
- “Markl” is a pretty awkward name and should have remained Michael.
- The movie didn’t have to take away Sophie’s magic. I really like the idea of her infusing hats and clothing with magic by talking to them, and it gives the WOTW an additional motive for cursing her.
- Sophie’s family relationships are almost nonexistent. She talks to Lettie a little. There’s no amusing Martha/Lettie swap (or Martha at all). There’s no eldest-of-three misfortune which is an amusing thing in the book. Her stepmom who owns the hat shop has approximately three seconds of screen time, and their relationship isn’t particularly clear.
- The ending is exciting and fun! (…now that I’ve finished it, a few hours after originally writing this.)
- Wales. I kind of think Miyazaki made the right call; it feels more escapist and fantastical to not have any connection to the real world.
- The Donne poem as the curse. It’s thematically appropriate… but I don’t think that would work without the Wales connection. And the mermaids and mandrake root encounters in the book seemed awfully random, not particularly clever. And perhaps the poem as puzzle didn’t come across as well in Japanese.
- In both the movie and the book, there are points where events stop making much apparent sense and the plot just sort of meanders for a while.
Next up I’ll be reading Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries. This apparently isn’t what it sounds like! I watched a bookstore’s interview with Becky Chambers and Martha Wells about their recent novels and how “hopepunk” is getting to be a thing — science fiction and fantasy where instead of terrible people and grim settings, it’s sort of comforting and cozy, full of kindness and diverse characters all mostly getting along. Like I wrote a few days ago, it’s not entirely without conflicts and problems to solve and regular human (or alien, or robot) worries. But it’s optimistic — even if its rise means that stories about people not being dicks has become an increasingly popular form of escapism.
(Apparently some people have a different definition for hopepunk, and would include things like Lord of the Rings… basically anything that pits hope vs. despair. That can be good stuff too, but it’s not really the sort of thing I am most looking fro right now.)